So we're going to be trying something out in the coming weeks, since there's plenty of time before the season starts. It's called Year In Preview, and we'll take a look at all 30 MLB teams and analyze what to expect from them in 2010. I got the idea because I've been thinking about Lance Berkman and the Houston Astros' situation this year. Does it make sense to trade him? What should they do to become competitive again? How far off are they? You get the idea. Without further ado...
2009 Record: 74-88, 17GB of St. Louis
Key Departures: Unless you consider Jason Bourgeois to be "key", then none.
Key Additions: Brett Myers ($3.1M in 2010 w/ bonuses, 8M mutual option with 2M buyout for 2011), Pedro Feliz (1/$4.5M), and Brandon Lyon (3/$15M). The Lyon move has been widely panned as one of the worst of the offseason.
Talent En Route: Jason Castro is the top prospect in the Astros organization and split time between A and AA in 2009. He needs at least another year in the minors before being considered for a callup. Jiovanni Mier may be the Astros' best position player prospect, but he is only 18 and just completed his first professional season in Rookie Ball. Jordan Lyles may be the 'stros best pitching prospect, posting a 3.24 ERA over 144 IP with a 10.39 K/9 and a 2.36 BB/9 in Low A ball. He is several years away from having an impact as well but boasts promising upside (even if he is a bit old for Low A). Correction: Lyles is 19 years old, which is decidedly not too old for Low A. I miscalculated his age and appreciate the heads-up from the reader in the comments.
2011 Free Agency and Salary Outlook: Lance Berkman is the biggest question for Houston going into the 2010 season and 2010-2011 free agency period, as Roy Oswalt is signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012. The team has a 2011 club option for $15M on Berkman with a 2M buyout. Will they exercise it? Will they attempt to deal him at the 2010 deadline? Will they decline the option and let him walk?
The Future of the Astros: It's no secret that the Astros haven't been run well over the past few years. Management vacillates between committing to the youth movement and overpaying for veterans, and mediocre ones at that. As it stands right now, the Astros' 2010 rotation is Oswalt, Wandy, Brett Myers and a whole lotta nothing. There are a few bright spots in the offense with Carlos Lee, Berkman and Pence, but there are plenty of black holes elsewhere.
I can't see the Astros contending for a 2010 playoff spot. I can't see them contending for a 2011 playoff spot. Their MLB talent is shallow and aging, and their MiL talent is shallow and too young. I recommend dealing Berkman and burning the system to the ground. They need to restock their farm system and try to compete in 2011 and 2012. Of course, they won't. They'll continue to sign mediocre veterans and place 3rd or 4th in the NL Central for the foreseeable future. Astros' fans can thank Drayton.
One More for the Road: What would be a good destination for Berkman? I've come up with the following scenarios and why they would or wouldn't make sense.
Mets: Murphy is the starting 1B but the Mets seem to be out of dough.
Giants: The offense is a black hole. Berkman to the Giants makes tons of sense.
D'Backs: They've traded for a power bat midseason before (Dunn), and I have to wonder if they might consider making a move if they were in contention at the deadline.
Braves: Troy Glaus is the 1B, but the Braves seem to be in cost-cutting mode. If only they hadn't signed Lowe...
Seattle and Oakland: Both are possible AL West contenders in 2010, with Seattle being the early favorite, and both could want more thump at the deadline.
Alas, Drayton will probably keep the Puma, fail to offer him arby, and watch him walk in FA. We shall see...